Time  9 hours 32 minutes

Coordinates 2179

Uploaded July 21, 2014

Recorded July 2014

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-
6,594 f
1,709 f
0
2.5
5.1
10.13 mi

Viewed 788 times, downloaded 11 times

near Doai, Gunma (Japan)

Day hike to Tanigawa-dake.

The rode the first train to Dai station, reaching there at 8:33. There are very few trains after Minakami (about 1 every 3 hours) and normally from my place in Tokyo I can't reach it even with the first train, yet this time we stayed in Gunma the day before so I could manage with a reasonably late start.

Doai is a very uncanny station, there is a gigantic staircase counting no less than 462 stairs going straight with no turns, with a small landing every 5 stairs. On the side there is what looks like a stream. It's already a challenge for unfit people to get out of the station and written messages are set to encourage people for the last meters.

The weather forecast was quite bad all over Kanto all through the week-end but I chose to go along my plan since it shouldn't rain hard. After a while it was sunny and quite hot so it gave us hope to see some blue skies and scenery at higher elevation. After a few hundred meters we got to the trail head and started on the Nishi Kuro ridge, famed to be one of the steepest trails of Japan. It was not too hot in terms of temperature but it was extremely humid, probably 100% humidity. The result is that when completely still it felt cool but any movement would make it feel suffocating. It was almost as if feeling both cool and hot simultaneously. Two of us had serious problems keeping up the pace and we had to make very frequent stops to wait for them. After about 500m elevation we reached the first chains and the trees were replaced by bushes and later by Sasa grass. We met two groups of teenagers who were going down. After than more rocks appeared and in spite of the clouds we could see towards Asahi-dake to the East and smaller mountains to the South. After a quick shower of moderate rain the weather remained stable and the rocks were almost dry everywhere.

As we proceeded towards the summit we passed rocky stretches of no difficulty but it required the use of hands. Overall I don't think this trail was hard at all, not even so steep… Also 4 hours map time for just 3.7 km seemed a bit exaggerated, I don't see how it could take me more than 1.5 hours if I was going at my normal pace and without taking constant breaks.

After reaching the summit at a very later hour we learned that the guy who was lagging behind had had cramps. Somehow the pace got better when we started to go downhill but the 2 at the back never managed to pass a slow group of elderlies so we spent more than 1/3 of the time waiting for them. As a result after passing people at a frenetic pace we had to wait and see the same people pass us in turn.
When we made it to the ropeway station we decided to keep going all the way to Minakami as planned.

At first the trail was exposed on the right side, with slippery rocks and roots. I feared that someone might fall off the trail and actually it almost happened. Several times I could hear someone start to slip and manage a quick re-balance. Fortunately the trail became wider soon and danger of fall put aside.

What happened next is probably something none of us will forget in a long time, we became assailed from all directions by leeches. 2 of us were wearing short pants with relatively low socks and made for ideal preys. We could see leeches creeping up their legs, a few already sucking their blood, 1 or 2 even already fat with blood. Then looking down on my own boots I noticed no less than 5 to 10 of those leeched making their way up my boots. Hopefully the 2 layers of socks of certain thickness offered me a better protection than my friend. During the process of removing some of the leeched with a knife yet others were making their way up our boots. A cursory check of the trail revealed that there were countless of them elongating their bodies while waving from side to side and waiting for one of us to pass close enough.
The leeches gave us no break and kept attacking relentlessly.

After a while we got to a flatter trail along 保登野沢a while most of the stream was not visible from the trail there were several crossings and I couldn't resist the temptation to set my camera on tripod and take a few shots, oblivious of leeches for a few seconds. Yet I had to remove some more leeches with my knife each time I stopped and when we got to the road I thought I had dealt with them once for all. While moving any black object entering my peripheral vision was wrongly interpreted by my temporarily damaged / traumatized brain as being a threatening leech. I had could see leeches everywhere, I was like a drug addict having a very bad fix although I shouldn't know what it feels like.

We reached Minakami station and a few minutes later a very heavy downpour assaulted the area, it made so much noise it was hard to keep a conversation. Hopefully we had made it just in time and after carefully checking my gears and shoes for leeches we got into the train.

The fight with the leeches was yet far from over, one of the short-pants guys realized he had 2 or 3 of them still sucking his blood, also there must have been 10 of them on each of his shoes. I took most of an hour to remove them all. Onlookers were kind enough to pass us tissues and as I thought I had been spared, I suddenly realized I was bleeding for the shin. I didn't understand how that would have happened since at no time did I ever noticed a leech attached to my skin.
However after taking a shower at home my other leg began bleeding too, the bleeding was very controlled and I should have lost only 2 to 3 mL of blood, almost nothing. What is amazing is that there is no doubt it's the work of leeches but the bleeding started way after I removed all specimen from my boots and I didn't see any of them on my skin. I can't be sure but it must be the case that they sucked my blood through my pants as they're made of thin fabric. As a conclusion I will definitely add "leech repellent" to my list of "must bring" items for the summer here.
Thankfully there were no leeches in my dreams last night.

Overall it was a relatively easy hike, some tricky traverse hard to negotiate wet rocks. The Nishi kuro one not so steep (I can definitely plan a 2:00 AM departure to see sunrise from Tanigawa) and a leech assault not to be forgotten by any of us for a long time.

More pictures here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/yzc66r2du0vv7oi/AABPPXANuXtA7NyqyP4YC6Ata
Parking

土合駅

Doai_station
Waypoint

西黒尾根

Nishikuro_one
Summit

ラクダのコブ

Rakuda_no_kobu
Summit

ザンゲ岩

Zange_iwa
Summit

谷川岳トマノ耳

Tanigawa-toma_no_mimi
River

保登野沢

Hotono_sawa
Parking

水上駅

Minakami_station

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